Ninety-four percent women commuting in public transport in the country have experienced sexual harassment in verbal, physical and other forms, reveals a study conducted by development organisation BRAC.
The findings of the study titled 'Roads free from sexual harassment and crash for women' were disseminated at a programme at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital on Tuesday, marking the International Women's Day that falls on Thursday.
A somewhat surprising revelation of the study is that males belonging to relatively older age group of 41-60 years have been identified as the major perpetrators who are responsible for 66 percent of such incidents.
The study also mentioned factors, including lax implementation of law, excessive crowd in buses and weak or no monitoring (such as absence of closed-circuit cameras) as the major causes behind the sexual harassment in roads and public transport, especially in buses.
Prof Syed Saad Andaleeb, Prof Simeen Mahmud, Fahmida Saadia Rahman and Kabita Chowdhury conducted the research.
The research was conducted during a three-month period between April and June, 2017 where a total of 415 women participated in Gazipur, Dhaka, and Birulia of Savar upazila in Dhaka district.
According to the research, 35 percent respondents using public transport said they faced sexual harassment from males belonging to the age group of 19-35 years. Around 59 percent faced such harassment from the males who are 26-40 years old.
The forms of sexual harassment experienced by the respondents include deliberate touching of victim’s body with chest and other parts, pinching, standing too close to the victim and pushing, touching victim’s hair, putting hand on their shoulder, touching private parts of the victim.
Asked what women do when they are victim of such harassments, 81 percent women said they kept silent while 79 percent said they moved away from the place of harassment.
It was observed in the study that the present education system in which male and female children attend institutions separately restricts the scope for learning gender equality lessons as well as building the attitude and habit of treating both the sexes equally and with respect. To help children develop such an attitude, adequate training and counselling of teachers and counsellors are essential, it noted.
Prof Syed Saad Andaleeb said the pervasive nature of sexual harassment on roads and transport calls for a much larger study that will reflect the nationwide scenario in this regard.
Speakers at the event also observed that although commendable progress has been made in the country in terms of women's education and professional engagement, the feeling of insecurity among women is pervasive.
To address the existing issues, they demanded stricter implementation of laws apart from the initiatives to raise public awareness.